Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish admits he is glad to see the back of 2011 because he believes 2012 could be a big year for Steven Gerrard. The 31-year-old midfielder ended a troubled 12 months by scoring his second league goal of the season as the Reds came from behind to defeat Newcastle United 3-1 at Anfield last night.
Gerrard was making only his sixth league appearance of an injury-hit campaign. Having undergone surgery on a damaged ankle towards the end of last season, the Liverpool captain has missed most of the present campaign due to an ankle infection.
"It's great to see him get the reward because he has worked really hard to get where he is," said Dalglish after Gerrard climbed off the substitutes bench to score his side's third goal. "It was a freak injury that got him in trouble in the first place, so the boy deserves a wee bit of luck. Maybe 2012 will bring him that.
"He is getting his way back to fitness. It's fantastic reward for him and everybody who has helped him to get back to the level he is at the moment. He will continue to work on his fitness. He has always been a huge asset to the club and he's got a lot of years to go. We'll look forward to those years."
Gerrard described 2011 as a terrible 12 months for him, but is hoping his injury problems are well and truly behind him after an inspirational cameo performance against Newcastle.
"To get on the score-sheet and to get the three points was a perfect return," said the England international. "I have had a terrible year with the injuries, but I want to look forward.
"Of late we haven't got what we deserved, so it was really pleasing to get the three points and three goals after criticism we haven't scored enough. Andy Carroll did everything but score, but it's not down to him alone. It's all of us - we must give him the service."
Liverpool's victory lifted them up to fifth in the Premier League, level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea. Former Newcastle forward Craig Bellamy scored twice as the 18-time English champions rallied after Daniel Agger's own-goal had given the visitors the lead.
Dalglish believes his side would be better placed going into the second half of the campaign had they enjoyed more luck. "To get 2011 out of the way is good for us, because I don't think we've had too much luck in the matches we've played in the first part of the season," said the Scot.
"We fully deserved the victory. We showed great courage, commitment and desire to get back into the game after going behind. It was probably the game we've created least chances in at home, but we've scored three goals.
"I don't feel relieved, just satisfied. It's great that the players have kept their belief in what they're doing and enjoyed what they're doing. You can see on the pitch how they work for each other."
Pardew eyes step up
Despite defeat, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is delighted with the progress his players have made in 2011. However, he believes the Magpies, who entertain Manchester United on Wednesday, have to defeat the Premier League's leading clubs if they are to progress to the next level.
"We've shown during the calendar year that we can be a force," said Pardew. "In periods of games we have shown we can match Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool. But we need to do it for 90 minutes."